Truck-Stopping Device Puts Brakes On Terrorism

By Roland Piquepaille

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has unveiled its fourth generation of its Truck Stopping Technology since 2001. A small device mounted on a truck can be remotely controlled by law enforcement officials if they suspect the truck is hijacked and being used for a terrorist action. They'll use a handheld controller to activate the device which will deploy the truck's air brakes and bring the truck to a complete stop before attacking a nuclear plant or other sensitive facilities. The LLNL engineers also have developed antennas which can be put on sensitive buildings and which will activate the device if trucks seem to come too close. These devices cost about $800 apiece, but cannot be mounted on trucks before some changes in legislation, in California and elsewhere. Read more...

Here are the key points of the LLNL announcement.

The Laboratory, part of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, today unveiled its latest version of the technology, a remote-controlled device that brings trucks to a screeching halt. The device was commissioned by and created for the California Highway Patrol to prevent tankers and other hijacked vehicles from becoming "bombs on wheels."
By enabling remote control technology, the device can be used to protect buildings such as government facilities, power plants and stations, and other areas where sensitive materials or critical infrastructures are housed.
The remote truck stopping technology at work Before going further, here is a picture of the Livermore's Truck Stopping Technology in action (Credit: Jacqueline McBride/LLNL). Here is a link to a larger version (634 KB).

This technology has been developed by David McCallen (short bio), diector of the LLNL Engineering Technology Center for Complex Distributed Systems with the help of outside consultants.

How does this fourth incarnation of truck stopping technology work?

The remote controlled variation works much like a child's radio-controlled toy. In a roadside emergency, patrolmen would use a hand-held controller to activate the device, which now sits behind the cab of a tractor trailer, to deploy the air brakes and bring the car to a screeching halt.
Laboratory researchers have taken the remote technology one step further by using a system of antennas that could be placed around various buildings. If a runaway truck tried to crash through the gates, the antennas, operating on a continuous signal, would activate the technology once the truck passed by, preventing any attack.

Press releases need to be optimistic, but will this technology be really deployed one day?

The devices cost approximately $800 apiece. The Laboratory, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and a commercial truck company already are testing an earlier impact version of the device on California highways. To have the devices automatically equipped on all commercial transportation vehicles will require legislation.

For more information about this technology, you can visit the Truck Stopping Device page at LLNL, which describes the history of the project and contains images and links to videos.

Sources: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) news release, February 22, 2005; and various LLNL websites

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